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Honors Program

The Honors program in Biology is research-based and requires students to complete a substantial piece of original biological work which they describe in a formal Thesis and present at the departmental Achauer Honors Research Symposium and through the Biology Virtual Showcase website.

The program offers a unique opportunity for independent research, creativity and achievement. The Department of Biology is very proud of the achievements of our undergraduate researchers and of the fact that so many of our students take advantage of this opportunity (typically between 50-60% of our students write Honors Theses each year!). Honors research also offers a chance to interact more closely with faculty, graduate students, postdoctoral researchers and fellow undergraduates.

Jump To:

How to Apply
Proposal Deadlines
The Thesis
Thesis Deadlines
Thesis Submission
Honors Symposium
Firestone Awards


There are five requirements for graduation with Honors in Biology:

  1. You must have a minimum GPA of at least 3.0 within the major by the time you graduate. This includes every course on your degree progress checklist (including foundational breadth). The only courses excluded from your GPA are research and teaching courses (BIO199/199X or BIOHOPK 199H, completed in junior and senior year). 

  2. 10 units of BIO 199 or 199X or BIOHOPK 199H from yours honors lab, completed during junior and senior year. If this poses a challenge, we will consider exceptions on a case-by-case basis for students who have completed comparable experience through federal work study, paid research experience, etc.

  3. An approved Honors proposal, submitted two quarters prior to the quarter you plan to confer your degree. If you plan to graduate in Spring, your honors proposal should be submitted in Autumn.

  4. A PDF of your Honors Thesis, which should be read and approved by at least two Academic Council members (the Research Sponsor/PI and a designated Second Reader, at least one of whom must be from the Department of Biology).

  5. Presentation of your research (oral presentation or poster) at the Achauer Honors Research Symposium and on our Biology Virtual Showcase website.

How to Apply

To petition for honors, students must submit the following materials:

  1. Honors Proposal Form with signatures from:

    • Research Sponsor/PI

    • Second Reader. If the PI is not a Biology faculty member, your second reader must be.

    • Third Reader, if applicable. If the PI is not a member of the Academic Council, a third reader is required.

    • Biology Department Faculty Advisor (a student's Faculty Advisor may also sign as the Second Reader, but must sign twice - once as Second Reader and again as Faculty Advisor)

  2. Biology GPA calculation sheet, printed out and included with your Honors proposal

  3. 5-6 page proposal using the format indicated on the Honors Proposal Form. Proposals longer than 10 pages will not be accepted.

  *If you will be applying to the Honors program in the 2021-2022 academic year, please fill out this form, so that we can add you to the Honors Canvas site that we will use for communication as well as submission of your application. If you have any questions, please email the Director of the Honors Program, Dr. Jamie Imam (jamiec@).    

In order to meet the honors proposal deadline, students should submit these documents to faculty at least one week ahead of the deadline to allow enough time for review and revision!

Proposal Deadlines

Honors proposals are due no later than two quarters prior to graduating.

  • Spring 2022 graduates: Thursday, October 7, 2021, 3:00pm
  • Autumn 2022 graduates: Thursday, January 20, 2022, 3:00pm
  • Winter 2023 graduates: Thursday, April 14, 2022, 3:00pm

It is your responsibility to obtain the necessary signatures on the proposal form. Many faculty travel extensively, so make sure your Research Sponsor, Readers, and Faculty Advisor will be on-campus to read your proposal and sign your form well ahead of the deadline. We recommend submitting your materials to your readers at least one week (though more notice is better!) ahead of these deadlines to give them adequate time for review.

The Thesis

The Honors Thesis should take the standard form of a research report, with the intended audience being a Biology faculty member or student who is not necessarily in your specific field. It must be at least 12 pages, not including data appendices and reference lists, but most theses are more than 20 pages. Use either 1.5 or double spacing and a 12-point font. Your Research Sponsor should be able to provide specific guidance regarding the content and organization of your Thesis. Be sure to get your Sponsor's advice on early drafts. It is also advisable to keep in contact with your Second Reader, so s/he can see a draft in sufficient time to provide constructive feedback as well.

Please use this Word document as the template for your thesis. All items highlighted in yellow are meant to guide you through the format, and should be deleted for your final thesis!

Bio199W is a course offered by the Biology department in the Winter quarter designed specifically to support you in writing your thesis. This course is not a requirement for completing Honors, but it is strongly recommended for Honors students!

Thesis Deadlines

Thesis deadlines are quarter-specific. Following are the deadlines for thesis submission for students graduating during the 2020-2021 academic year:

  • Autumn 2021 graduates: Monday, November 15, 2021, 3:00pm
  • Winter 2022 graduates: Monday, February 21, 2022, 3:00pm
  • Spring 2022 graduates: Thursday, May 5, 2022, 3:00pm
  • Summer 2022 graduates: Monday, August 15, 2022, 3:00pm

The following items must be submitted along with the thesis:

  1. Printed signature page with verified electronic signatures from your readers. If original ink signatures cannot be obtained, scanned copies of the form can be accepted but your reader(s) must also email student services indicating final approval of your thesis.
  2. Thesis Release Form signed by you and your research sponsor.

Thesis Submission

The final step is to submit your thesis online using Stanford's Digital Repository.  Your thesis should be in PDF format with the file titled "LastName_FirstName_BioThesis.pdf."  The PDF should include a copy of your signed signature page (the Student Services Office can send you a scanned copy if needed). Detailed instructions for submitting your thesis are in the document linked below:

Instructions for Submitting Your Thesis to SDR

Your thesis must be uploaded by the thesis submission deadlines!! Students submitting late proposals will automatically be excluded from winning the Firestone Award or doing an oral presentation at the Honors Symposium.


All honors students must create a scientific poster and short recorded presentation, regardless of which quarter they graduate. The only exception is for students who are selected to give an oral presentation of their work at the annual Honors Symposium in Spring quarter (see below for details). For information on how to construct a poster, see the Poster Guidelines, visit VPUE's website for additional information about poster design and presentation, or check out examples of strong posters from recent years (webauth required). Poster files should be submitted via webform for review the day prior to the symposium. Note: students must still submit their posters for printing separately (if the symposium is in-person) - the department does NOT handle this.

The Honors Symposium

Honors students graduating in Spring Quarter are required to participate in the Biology Achauer Honors Research Symposium held Friday, May 20, 2022. Most students, including those graduating in Autumn or Winter Quarters, will present their work via poster. In lieu of creating a poster, approximately 4-5 Spring graduates will give oral presentations at the symposium. If you are interested in giving a presentation, submit an application by April 28, 2022 (Thur, 3:00pm).

All Honors graduates are expected to attend all of the oral presentations during the Achauer Honors Symposium, so as soon as you have finalized your Spring Quarter study list, make alternative plans for any class that meets Friday afternoons!

Firestone Awards

Research Sponsors may nominate their Honors student(s) for the Firestone Medal for Excellence in Undergraduate Research, using the Honors Thesis as the basis for the award. Students cannot apply for this distinction. In order for students to be considered for the award, the Research Sponsor needs to submit a nomination webform to Student Services by Thursday,  April 21, 2022. This means that you should submit your Thesis to your Readers even earlier than the deadline if you’d like to be considered for the prestige associated with the Firestone Medal!